Eight Factors of Greatness in Sports
Who is the greatest of all time? Michael Jordan or LeBron James? Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds?
Sports fans constantly argue about who the greatest is and why they are so much better than everyone else. Everyone has a different perspective on these discussions and is entitled to their own opinion. Since this is a matter of opinion, there is really no right answer. However, people can use facts to make an opinion seem factual.
There are many different reasons people use to decide who is the best to ever play. People bring up championships won, records broken and clutch moments. Here are the most important factors to consider when measuring the greatness of players.
The first thing sports fans see is a player’s skills. People can see skills even at a young age as it’s very easy to separate the ones with lots of skill from the ones that are just playing for fun. One can easily measure skills. Who can dribble through their legs, catch with one hand or throw a curveball? To be great, one must first have skill that puts them above the average player.
Numbers don’t lie. No one cares if a player can dribble through their legs if they can only score two points in a game. Stats have become more and more prominent in sports because they are numbers that can be counted and measured. It’s easy to see that a player who hits 50 home runs is better than a player who only hits 15. To be considered great, a player must put up numbers that speak for themselves.
Great players win awards for being great. There are only a handful of players in every sports league that get awards. There are only so many All-Stars and only one MVP. The really special players are voted for from all kinds of spectators, whether it be fans, The Associated Press, or even their own peers. No one enters the greatness discussions without earning some personal achievement trophies.
Great players step up in the biggest moments. A lot of people would argue that the best way to settle the greatest of all time argument is to ask the question, “With the game on the line, who are you giving the ball to?” There are many players that put up great numbers all the time but the really great players save their best numbers for when the team needs it the most.
At the end of the day, the goal of playing is to win. A player has to win in order to be recognized. Some might argue that wins are a team achievement and a player can’t be held responsible for their team’s success, but great players tend to lead their teams to wins. People don’t remember players who never won anything.
One can never forget the supporting cast. Even when discussing the greatness of a single player, one must remember that a player’s success has a lot to do with coaches and teammates who helped along the way. In some cases, a player plays for a really bad team and therefore can never achieve their potential greatness. In other cases, a player may not be that great but because the team around them is so good, they excel. The supporting cast has a lot to do with how great one player is.
Got rings? The ultimate goal for a player in team sports is to win at the highest level. For the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, the highest level is the Super Bowl, Finals, World Series, and Stanley Cup Final respectively. A lot of people would consider championships to be the number one factor for measuring greatness. The value of championships depends entirely on each individual’s opinion, but championships will always be brought up in any discussion of who the greatest is.
8. Impact on team
How a player impacts their team is arguably the perfect representation of that player’s value or greatness. What does the team look like and how far do they get without the player? Would the Bulls have won six championships without Jordan? Would the Patriots have won five Super Bowls without Brady? The best players impact their teams in such a way that makes them irreplaceable.
Comparing players is somewhat silly because each era is different and it is almost impossible to say who would dominate in any era other than their own. That won’t stop sports fans from arguing though. Maybe one day there will be technology to see how a prime Jordan matches up against a prime James. Until then, people will continue to bring up stats, championships and the rest of these factors in their meaningless, yet oh so important debates.